Thursday, April 26, 2012


What is the most spectacular and crowd-drawing billboard you’ve ever seen?

Nine years ago, TBWA Japan made the world talking about two billboards in prime locations of Tokyo and Osaka.

In Tokyo’s Shibuya district, the world’s busiest pedestrian-intersection and Osaka city’s urban center, the billboards were mounted on top of a ten-story high building with a simple 4-element layout: The brand’s logo (not even humongously screaming), campaign tagline, simulated football field and just the color it has always been known for: Blue.

What’s so special about the stunt? Stunning.

Where advertisers used mannequins before, Adidas elevated two human soccer players and suspended them vertically from a 26-foot bungee rope.

They swung back and forth like spidermen, kicking a soccer ball hanging between them. Japanese passers-by went wild.

At a 90-degree angle vertical soccer field, the football players displayed their wares in 10-to-15-minute interval matches, spread from 1 pm, 2 pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm.

Having created an extreme billboard medium, Adidas even went a step wilder onto the next: staged another death-defying series: Vertical sprint, prelude to launching the “Impossible is Nothing” campaign.

Adidas reinvented outdoor-advertising, static advertising suddenly became sedate, the medium zoomed up to new heights, literally raising the ante and creating the most effective and wildly acclaimed outdoor bang of the decade.

It cleaned up every award in major competitions, in Cannes, One Show and Clio, enroute to becoming the winningest billboard advertising in history.

McCann Worldwide Manila’s “Living Billboard” for Coca-Cola recently made it to AdAge and other global trade sites. Before reaching Guadalupe, northbound commuters passing through the city’s Edsa must have seen this 60 x 60 foot billboard made of real Fukien tea plants around the iconic Coke bottle.

If they were ordinary plants, they wouldn’t be such a big deal but they were carbon-dioxide-eating plants and they carpeted the whole frame. Pots made from recycled bottles contained 3,600 small-growth trees, thriving from a mixture of organic fertilizers. They were meant to absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of air pollutants from the atmosphere during its entire exposure.


In 2007, Leo Burnett Chicago also made a similar outdoor stunt for its client McDonald’s when the latter introduced “Fresh Salad” on its menu. The fastfood’s ad agency team worked closely with a horticulturist to create a billboard that would dramatize the idea of freshness.

The ‘growing’ billboard started with 1½-inch lettuce sprouts, which then grew into lush leaves. The ‘billboard garden’ was even safe from being plucked by birds because there was no place for them to perch.

Expectedly, the campaign created much word-of-mouth buzz among target consumers, and all the way to Cannes and Clio, harvesting awards one after the other.

Ogilvy Manila has made a number of cut-through billboards for Unilever over the last few years. Utilizing the medium’s function to the hilt, the agency has always made Ponds enjoy top of mind awareness among target users.

You must have seen a woman actually using the billboard’s tarpaulin to hide her pimply face. What about a “die-cut” billboard shaped like a skin pore with a man holding a giant scrub to clean the entire surface? Did you see that girl with a ‘red dot’ on her cheek, (actually, a siren lighting up) for pimple alarm?

There are many other ‘odd’ billboards around. However unusual they may be, they got huge talk-value mileage, eventually translating into sales.

Has anyone seen a transparent billboard, like the one pulled off successfully in South Korea? It could pause some danger though, if not executed with safety measures.

Years back, a “Light Bulb” billboard ignited talk-of-the-town sensation for The Economist. The Ogilvy Singapore team designed it with a motion sensor, lighting up the bulb every time a passerby walked directly below it.

What about God’s Billboard quotes? “Bring your umbrella, I might water the plants today.” Signed God, one series says. In 2002, Love Singapore Movement tasked its agency to create a new image for God – “someone with a sense of humor, someone who talks to people in his own way, with wit, irony, humor,” said Eugene Chong, creator of the award-winning campaign.

Some examples of the billboard messages were: “What do I have to do to get your attention? Take an ad out in the paper?” God “I hate rules. That’s why I only made ten of them.” God “Please don’t drink and drive. You’re not quite ready to meet me yet.” God


While there are exceptional billboards around, a lot are also choking our metropolis, causing people migraine, even provoking consumer groups and vanguards of morality. Manila once woke up seeing a liquor billboard that enraged religious and women’s grops, prompting Adboard to step into the picture.

An apparel company was asked to pull down all its billboards near Guadalupe Bridge for showing men in bikini briefs with bulging crotches.

Billboards must deliver their messages in split seconds. The simpler they get, the easier the messages could be recalled. But when advertisers mistake them as leaflets or flyers, the headache intensifies.

Some billboards could really fall down from the weight of elements in their advertising. It’s common to spot a billboard with a hodgepodge of fonts, buffet of photos, bunch of copy sandwiched in between. You see them flying all over the layout they could crash down even without typhoons.

Some simply haven’t learned how to moderate messages to single-mindedness, turning the medium into a smorgasbord of words and pictures.
Very effective in making high recall and brand awareness, billboards have made millions worth of sales. Created with tact and done beyond the usual, they could be advertisers’ best brand selling medium.